- Now how about that Southern Utah game? Well, it was a win, and...that’s really the only thing we can say with one hundred percent certainty. And that the pick six at the end was completely avoidable and unnecessary and awful etcetera etcetera. We can’t ascribe many tangible conclusions to a team one game into a season, and that uncertainty is understandably maddening. There are examples of teams struggling -- or losing -- to FCS opponents that went on to do great things, as well as plenty more examples of teams blowing the doors off of FCS opponents who failed to achieve anything of consequence the rest of the year. Heck, the last time Nevada played Washington State, they were spiritually de-pantsed at Mackay, opening the 2005 season with a 55-21 humiliation. The Cougars went on to finish 5-7 that year, while Nevada beat Fresno State, earned a shared WAC title and won its bowl game to finish 9-3. If we have reason to fear -- or celebrate -- this team, we won’t know for at least another week, and probably a little longer than that.
- Speaking of the Cougars, does anyone know what, exactly, coach Jim Mastro is doing at Washington State? At this point, does Mastro himself even know anymore? As most of us probably DO know, Mastro was the long-time running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Nevada, serving under Chris Ault from 2004 to 2010. He was the closest thing to a right-hand man Ault had in his final tenure as head coach, and they were the principal architects of the pistol offense we’ve come to worship today. Under his guidance, Nevada finished in the top five nationally in rushing yards per game from 2008 to 2010 -- leading the whole country in 2009 -- and five different Wolf Pack running backs had 1,000-yard seasons. Even Ault himself has said that, outside of him, no one knows more about the pistol than Jim Mastro.
- So why, then, is Mastro’s expertise in the pistol ground attack currently being wasted on Mike Leach’s staff? Through last week, the Cougars have averaged 2.1 yards per carry on just 19.6 carries per game, a whopping 1,049 total yards on 509 attempts since Leach and Mastro first joined forces in 2012. On that day when Leach hired his old friend from Cal Poly to join his new staff, the prospect of combining his famous air raid passing attack with the pistol ground game was, in technical terms, really friggin’ exciting. The successful marriage of those two schemes could’ve made for an unholy abomination of offensive dominance, as well as a source for a whole generation of defensive coordinators plagued by migraines and nighttime bed-wetting.
- But since being hired away from UCLA, Mastro and his running backs have done exactly jack-all-squat for the Cougars. Why would you hire one of the two people in America who know how to run the pistol to absolute perfection, only to have him languish up in the press box doing...I don’t know what? Candy Crush? Sudoku puzzles? Writing the Great American Novel? In any case, that’s like Nick Fury recruiting Thor to join the Avengers as a carpenter.
“Enchanted hammer or not, those leaky roof tiles at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters ain’t gonna replace themselves.”
- I hate to keep harping on this (not really), but Mastro deserves a much better fate than being the token running back guy on a pass-crazy team. Even on an otherwise mediocre UCLA team in 2011, his run game was a bright spot (178 yards per game that year), so it’s not like the pistol is incapable of succeeding at a power program. At the outset, Washington State was a great destination for him, both professionally and personally, but somewhere along the way, expectations and reality have gone in separate directions for him. My feeling is that if Mastro were to be hired as an offensive coordinator for a MAC or Conference USA team, he’d have great success and attract a lot of attention before long. Here’s hoping some enterprising team takes that very chance on him after this season.
- And now, because I know you’ve all (read: none of you) been dying to hear my thoughts, here’s how I think the San Francisco Fightin’ Kaepernicks will do this season. The team is still well-put together in the starting ranks, thin behind them in certain areas, and hoping like heck they can still renew the contracts of some of their biggest assets after this season. Losing Aldon Smith for the first nine games, however, is gonna hurt. Possibly hard. For now, I’ll tentatively say 11-5, a wild card spot in the playoffs and a postseason hot streak leading to a sixth Super Bowl win.
- Beer of the Week: Mack and Jack’s African Amber (Redmond, WA) -- I had this one in 2010 after my Dad and I watched Nevada drop 844 yards of offense and 63 points on Idaho at the Kibbie Dome. The stadium is far and away the best airplane hangar doubling as a football field (and basketball court) on the Palouse, and the beer was pretty great, too. I give it four tipsy Wolfies out of five.
All fan mail (burning or otherwise), should be sent to:
c/o North RV Lot
Campus of THE University of Nevada
Reno, NV 89557